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Toy Story 3 – MSN exclusive Jeff Garlin, Joan Cusack and Kristen Schaal interview

by Andy Gibbons

In the second of our four exclusive interviews, I sat down with Jeff Garlin (who voices newcomer unicorn Buttercup), Joan Cusack (Jessie) and the hilarious Kristen Schaal (new dinosaur Trixie) over a cup of tea to talk Toy Story 3.

Again, beware spoilers…..


Joan, does it get easier coming back to Jessie second time round?

JC – Yeah, definitely. I think working with Pixar is sort of top of the line because it’s so thought out and the people are so creative and thoughtful and collaborative, so there’s no negativity with anything you do with it. It’s like the best working experience you can have.

Were you recorded alone or did you interact with the other actors?

JC – You’re always by yourself. I don’t know. (To Jeff) In Wall-E were you ever with anyone else?

JG – In Wall-E I was the only one talking so if there were other actors they were just there staring at me. No, I was always by myself. And I’ve actually talked to other people who’ve worked on other Pixar movies and you’re always by yourself.

KS – I did volunteer when Jeff was recording Wall-E to come in and stare at him.

JG – I actually said no. You were too salty and sultry and I would lose my concentration.

Kristen, this is your first Pixar movie. Were you a Pixar fan and how was it finally hearing your voice on screen?

KS – It’s incredible. I am a Pixar and when I got a chance to audition it was like “Oh really! Can this get any better?” Hearing the voice was amazing and they really do get exactly what they want and what they want is so good that when I heard my voice back I was like “Hey that’s some of the best voice work I’ve ever done.”

Kristen, did you study Rex’s performances in the other films to get into a dinosaur frame of mind?

KS – No because I felt like he’s so charming and contagious that I’d just mimic his performance and that would be bad. I love Rex.

Joan, how were you when you read the script and realised that it would probably be the end of the toys story with Andy?

JC – You know you don’t read the script. It’s always over a period of a couple of years and you just do different sections of it at a time and then they rework it and rethink it and then you come in and do dome more. But I knew when I came to be the most serious part f the movie that they (Pixar) were really going for it. I think with all of the success they’ve had and all of the luxury to be thoughtful and creative in such a safe environment where people can do their work and they’re not going to get fired and they work with the same people over and over again, they went for making a real movie and I think it was pretty cool.

Were there any tears when you watch the finished film?

JC – You know there were.

JG – There are a few moments that are really hard to take, at least without your eyes getting watery. I don’t know if I started to cry which I’ve done in movies before but my eyes were definitely tearing up a couple of times. Even that moment when Andy’s mom walks into his room and she realises (that he’s going to college). I mean, Oh my God, that’s just good night nurse. That kills. And without saying anything too specific, the ending is so touching.


The scene at the furnace was tough…

JG – Oh that was intense. I actually did something horrible. I actually convinced the woman doing my make up for an interview said “Everyone seems quite affected by the movie, it seems quite emotional”. So I said to her “Well you know what happens? All the main characters die, they all burn in an incinerator but what do I care? I’m one of the new characters, I don’t burn. The next movie is all about me.” And as if on cue, people who had seen the movie that day came in and I would say to them “Boy, that incinerator. That was pretty intense wasn’t it?” And they would all go “It was so scary”. So of course this poor make-up artist was like “Wow, you’re right”. And I never corrected it either.

Voice over work can be very tiring. What did you guys do to get through it?

KS – Caffeine. Caffeine. It’s the elixir.

JG – Water for me and just the honour and excitement of being in a Pixar movie. I stayed pretty amped and I’ve done it sick before but I never feel like “Man, I wish I could be boating” or “I wish I could be this or that”.

KS – I get a long cord just like Bjork and they let me run all over Emeryville (where Pixar is based). It’s like a two mile long cord and I’m running through the streets just shouting my lines and they’re like “You’ve got it Kristen”.

Jeff, I guess this is your first time playing a fluffy horse. What was your motivation for Buttercup?

JG – That I signed a contract and was excited to be in the movie. My motivation is always that I’m there, that I’ve been hired and I’m working. I knew they wanted me to play the character like myself which is what I did. It wasn’t like “Do a fluffy voice”, it was like, and excuse me for going third person, Jeff Garlin and Buttercup the Unicorn are the same person. I’ve been asked numerous times if it’s a boy or a girl but I didn’t know if Unicorns have sex.

KS – They can’t reproduce, that’s what they’re extinct.

JC – The horn gets in the way.

JG – There was no thought process when it came to me saying my lines. All I asked was that the room I was in was air-conditioned because I’m big on comfort.


Was there any tension between you and Timothy Dalton (who voices Mr. Prickypants) off set?

JG – I’ve never met him. I hear he’s coming tomorrow so I look forward to meeting him. I don’t even know if he’ll know who I am or that we’re both in the movie together. I never assume anyone knows who I am which is a great way to be. You never screw yourself by doing that. It can only work out well.

KS – And I assume that everybody is famous so that helps too. I say “I love your work, I love your work” no matter who they are.

How many brownie points do you get as a parent being in a movie like this?

JG – I gotta be honest, I don’t get any brownie points ever except by being a kind, loving father. (My kids) don’t give a crap about what I do. They’re thrilled that I’m in this movie and they’re going to have fun but they won’t like me any better because of it. I’d be in a sad relationship with my children if they liked me based on my current project. Then they’d be like everyone else in LA. I know when I walk in my house, whatever state my career is in, my children are thrilled to see me and that’s the greatest thing in the world.

JC – I gotta say when I was doing Toy Story 2 it was really cool that I was in a movie with Buzz Lightyear because I have boys and they were little, like three and six, so that was pretty cool. They didn’t really care about the Jessie part.

What do you like about Jessie?

JC – I think Jessie is a pretty good role model actually because she feels things deeply but she learns from her feelings so it’s not like she’s just feeling things and is out of control. And she doesn’t feel like being a girl is a plus or a minus – it’s a not issue. I think she is positive and feels like you can do things and I like too that she believe s that kids are important and she wants to figure out a way to do something meaningful for kids, that she wants them to have fun and she feels that their purpose is to make children happy. I like that when she mistakenly thinks “This is it” and they’re about to be thrown away that she doesn’t totally cry in her soup about it, that she figures out something else they can do that would be purposeful and meaningful. But when she realises that was wrong she apologies. Those are all good little models of how to be for kids.

The merchandise for the Toy Story films is huge – have you played with your characters toys yet?

JG – I have a little Buttercup. I haven’t really played with it – but that is an option. If I’m in the mood I will play with Buttercup. But I will buy all the Buttercups. I have all the Captains from Wall-E. But neither have I tried to encourage my children to play with them. I used to try and get and get my children to watch various things. “Are you sure you don’t want to watch Daddy Day Care?” “No”. “Are you sure you don’t want to play the Wall-E video game over Madden?” “No, we want to play Madden”.

KS – I didn’t receive a Trixie. What’s going on Jeff?

JG – Here’s what you should know Kristen. I received a letter saying “You’re one of the special people in the movie…”

KS – Oh, I want that letter! Is there a Trixie doll? There’s gotta be because I will play with it. I will play extensively with it and I’ll let my imaginary kids play with it too.


As parents, what did you do with your children’s cast off toys? Did they get donated or thrown away?

JG – My wife and I have kept a few for sentimental reasons but all of the others we’ve given away to other children or charity or something like that. We’ve never thrown them away. I know for sure the stuffed animals that meant a lot to them when they were little, my older boy had a thing called Cubby that was a little Chicago Cubs bear, we kept and probably a few others. But the rest we gave away.

What about you guys? Do you remember ever giving away your toys?

KS – I still have all my toys. They’re in my childhood room and they’re just sitting there. There was one doll that haunted me that I thought was going to scratch my eyes out in the middle of the night. That doll, my Mom says she gave away but I’m worried that I’ll be in the basement when I go home And I’ll move a box and there she’ll be, ready to kill me.

JG – I can tell you I wish I had all my toys from when I was a kid. Looking back, the one that sticks with me which is strange, I had a Captain America action figure when I was like five but it meant so much to me. And I remember the most heartbroken I was about my Mom giving something away was my baseball cards. We moved from Chicago to Florida and we used to keep the cards in the big Baskin Robbins ice cream containers and she sold each barrel of cards, primarily filled with 1968 through 1972 baseball cards in very nice condition, for a quarter each so she made a dollar fifty on what was valued at tens of thousands for sure now.

JC – I’m trying to think ‘cos I feel like we did a lot of forts and stuff. We did a lot of going under the porch and find things like an old rug.

JG – Joan’s house, the house she grew up in, is truly an adventure. I think it’s the coolest house I’ve ever been in. I love all the different rooms.

JC – There were five of us. Me and my older sister would play house a lot and make things. The only doll I remember was the Barbie head, not the whole doll. It was a head and you could do make-up on it.

Toy Story 3 is in UK cinemas from July 19th


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